In the Haughn laboratory our research is focused on seed coat epidermal differentiation of Arabidopsis thaliana as a system for studying cell wall biosynthesis. During differentiation, the seed coat epidermal cells secrete massive amounts of pectin (mucilage) into the apoplast, synthesize a thick secondary cell wall and then undergo apoptosis. When mature seeds are exposed to water this pectinaceous mucilage swells, bursts the primary cell wall and envelopes the seed, serving as a protective barrier and maintaining seed hydration. We have used both forward and reverse genetic techniques, microarray analysis and positional cloning to identify and functionally characterize genes that regulate or are directly involved in the biosynthesis, secretion, and modification of pectin. This has enabled us to uncovered both regulators and enzymes central to the process. Our long term goal is to develop the knowledge and tools necessary to manipulate pectin structure and function in planta.
Personal website: http://blogs.ubc.ca/haughn/